Town, UNC to Bring New Homeless Shelter to Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill and UNC officials have identified a property off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has been as the site for a new homeless shelter.

The University is in the process of buying 13-plus acres of land from Duke Energy, a portion of which – about 1.5 acres – it intends to lease to the town on a long-term basis. The town then plans to make the site, which is adjacent to the United Church of Chapel Hill, available to the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service for the construction and operation of a new homeless shelter.

“Chapel Hill has a long history of caring about the homeless and supporting the Inter-Faith Council,” Mayor Kevin Foy said. “This in-kind contribution has been a public-private partnership that enables the IFC to help countless numbers of homeless people to get back on their feet.”

Chancellor James Moeser praised the solutions-oriented connectivity of town, campus and religious leaders and the greater community.

“This community has always taken care of those in need,” Moeser said. “Carolina students, faculty and staff have long been among those volunteering with the Inter-Faith Council. Providing the IFC the land where it can realize its expansion plans exemplifies what we hold dear as partners in the future of Orange County.”

The community’s homeless population is served by the Inter-Faith Council, which manages Community House, a community kitchen and 30-bed men’s residential facility. The shelter is currently housed at the Old Municipal Building at 100 W. Rosemary St., which has been leased from the town since 1985. Services for homeless women and children are provided at IFC’s HomeStart facility on Homestead Road.

In 2007, more than 89,042 meals were served to hungry people and 669 homeless men received emergency shelter at the Old Municipal Building. During the same period, the HomeStart program housed 89 single women and 78 women and children from 29 families. Eighteen other families were provided ongoing outreach services to prevent homelessness through a grant from the Orange County Partnership for Young Children.

The Old Municipal Building was initially leased for use as an emergency shelter in July 1985. In 1989, the building was renovated for long-term use to provide short-term housing for the homeless community and for relocating the community kitchen. In 2004, the town completed a roofing and renovation project of the building.

After being founded by a group of local church women in 1963, much of IFC’s work has been done by community volunteers, including town employees, University students, faculty and staff, and members of the community’s congregations. Volunteers – including congregations, local business, individuals and foundations – have provided funding and time to support IFC’s work.

“We have thousands of volunteers and generous donors who have participated with us over the years,” said Chris Moran, IFC executive director. “We know that the local community will be generously supportive as IFC begins its capital campaign.”

The goal, Moran said, is to have the new men’s residential facility operational by 2011. As envisioned, the new facility would be rehabilitative in nature, offering emergency shelter and longer-term housing opportunities so homeless men can gain the job and coping skills and support needed to move into homes of their own, contributing productively and independently to the community.

“A home for the homeless is a sign of hope and goodness in this community,” said the Rev. Richard Edens, who, with his wife, Jill, has been with United Church of Chapel Hill for the past 29 years. “I think our congregation will rejoice to have the Inter-Faith Council as a neighbor again.”

United Church of Chapel Hill was one of the initial congregations to found the IFC in 1963. When the church was located on Cameron Avenue, the IFC used one of the congregation’s buildings on Wilson Street for 30 years, Edens explained. In fact, the shelter had its beginnings in the church’s fellowship hall on Cameron Avenue. “We would store mats and blankets in the basement of the Wilson Street house and bring them over every evening to the fellowship hall,” said Edens, who was IFC president when the Old Municipal Building was renovated to serve as the community kitchen and shelter.

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